Suspect in killing of two California officers barred from owning gun

Suspect in killing of two California officers barred from owning gun

(Reuters) – A 26-year-old man accused of shooting to death two police officers in Palm Springs, California, is a convicted felon who was barred from owning a gun, which has prompted an investigation into how he acquired the firearm, officials said on Monday.

John Felix is suspected of shooting through a door of his parents’ house in the desert resort community on Saturday, killing two officers who were responding to a report of a family disturbance, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

Felix, who surrendered to Palm Springs police early on Sunday after an hours-long standoff, was convicted in 2010 of assault with a firearm, according to California criminal records.

Authorities recovered a firearm from the property after arresting Felix, said Michael Vasquez, spokesman for Riverside County Sheriff’s Office which is investigating the shooting.

Convicted felons are prohibited by state and federal law from possessing a firearm, and as a result, investigators were seeking to determine how Felix got the gun, Vasquez said.

Investigators have not said what might have motivated the shootings in Palm Springs, a normally quiet town about 100 miles (161 km) east of Los Angeles.

Felix, who was jailed on suspicion of two counts of murder of a peace officer, could be formally charged on Tuesday and is likely to appear in court on Thursday, John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney, said in an email.

The killings of the two officers marks the first time in 54 years any Palm Springs police officer has died in the line of duty, according to the website for the city’s police officers’ union.

The two slain officers have been identified as Jose Vega, 63, a veteran of the Palm Springs Police Department who planned to retire in December, and Lesley Zerebny, 27, who was on the force for a year and a half and had just returned from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter.

The Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association in a post on its website on Monday asked for donations of infant formula for Zerebny’s baby.

It was not immediately clear if Felix has obtained an attorney.

A representative at the Riverside County public defender’s office could not be reached for comment.

A third officer who was wounded in the shooting has been released from the hospital, the Palm Springs Police Department said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman)